If you’re in the market to purchase a new computer mouse, it’s not at all uncommon to feel almost completely overwhelmed by all of the options available. However, when you consider that aside from your keyboard, your mouse will most likely be the hardware peripheral getting the most use, it makes sense to choose carefully.
There’s two main considerations to keep in mind when purchasing a new mouse that will help to guide your purchasing decision—wired versus wireless, and optical versus laser.
The wired versus wireless debate will mostly come down to personal preference and your available work space when using your computer. It’s a fairly straightforward decision and you should already have a pretty good idea of what your needs are in that department.
On the other hand, the decision between an optical or laser mouse is a little bit more complex. Many consumers are totally unaware of the main differences between the two.
That’s exactly why we’ve put this guide together. We’ll be going over the major differences between the two types of mice to help you choose the best option for your own unique needs.
So is an optical or laser mouth better? Read on to find out!
The main difference between optical and laser mice is found in the method that they track movement. If you are unaware, a computer mouse works by using illumination sources in order to track movement.
An optical mouse uses a built-in LED light to track movement across surfaces, while a laser mouse—as you can probably imagine—uses a laser light as an illumination source.
Both types of mice also feature tiny, low-resolution cameras that are known as CMOS sensors. The purpose of these sensors is to take photographs of the surface area it’s used on in order to track precise movements.
Wondering what DPI is? It stands for dots per inch, and it is essentially the standard used to measure the sensitivity of your mouse.
The DPI number is a measure of how many pixels the mouse covers in a one-inch area. For example, if you have a DPI of 1600 (the standard DPI amount of most mice), when you move your mouse one inch, the cursor will move 1600 pixels.
In general, the higher the DPI of a mouse, the more sensitive it is. For this reason, many gaming mice are sold with a much higher DPI, often times as high as 4000, to match the needs of hardcore gamers.
So what does this mean when it comes to the showdown between optical and laser mice?
Well, laser mice typically tend to have a higher DPI, making them more sensitive compared to optical mice. This difference was much more noticeable in the past—however, nowadays many optical mice are sold with higher a than average DPI as well, negating this difference somewhat.
Now that we understand how a higher DPI makes a mouse more sensitive, what about the question of mouse accuracy? This is an especially important consideration for gamers.
It might almost seem counterintuitive as most gaming mice market themselves with a high DPI, but when it comes to first-person shooters or other games focusing on precision aiming, you’re probably better off going for a mouse that features a lower DPI.
Wondering why? It all comes down to the way the mouse illuminates the surface it’s on.
A laser mouth scans the surface area a little too deeply, which causes it to pick up even slight imperfections or dents. This can cause jittery movements when aiming or slower movement speeds.
Meanwhile, an optical mouse will only sense the top area of the surface it’s moving on. This causes them to have extremely trivial tracking variations, as low as one percent, while a laser mouse can have a tracking variation as high as 5 percent.
What this essentially means is that an optical mouse will function best when used on a mouse pad, or any type of non-glossy surface. On the other hand, a laser mouse can be used on any type of surface.
When it comes to what’s the better option—an optical or laser mouse—the answer is that it depends.
There’s three main considerations to factor into your buying decision:
In general, an optical mouse will be better for gaming, and indeed, many companies who produce gaming mice are beginning to go back to using LED-illumination as opposed to laser. Optical mice also tend to be cheaper than laser mice. For most people, we recommend generally recommend you go with an optical mouse.
However, if you’ll be using your mouse on a variety of surfaces or in different locations, then a laser mouse might probably be the better option for you.